This past spring, we recorded season five of “View From Venus,” which is a companion podcast to this blog, “University of Venus” at Inside Higher Ed. Like “University of Venus,” “View From Venus” focuses on building community for women and women-identified folks in higher ed and our allies. We do that through amplifying the voices of women and women-identified people and highlighting issues that are most relevant to us.
In episode one of this season, we hosted guest expert Yves Salomon-Fernández, and she shared her thoughts about the changing landscape of work and opportunities for supporting the success of women in our colleges and universities.
Mary Churchill: In addition to your current leadership role, you have held three presidential positions at community colleges. What are some of the biggest challenges facing women leaders in higher ed today?
Yves Salomon-Fernández: That is a huge question. I think for women leaders right now we have a moment of opportunity with the Great Resignation, the great attrition. I think there are many more opportunities that are opening up for women and people who have the chance to really reflect on what they are doing right now, asking themselves: What do I want to do with my life? What do I want to leap into? I have friends who have gone from the nonprofit sector into tech who have gone from higher ed into health care, into different areas. I think it’s a moment of opportunity. However, we know that not all women can take advantage of these opportunities.
I think right now we have a moment, and I see women across generations. I see the baby boomer women as having opened a lot of doors for us, and we stand on their shoulders. Today, we have opportunities to balance work and life that we didn’t have before. I’m so grateful for the millennial and Gen Z women who are doing this resetting. I look at them and I think, wow, that is bold.
I see those who’ve been alongside us, the ones who were coming up were giving us new lenses, and the ones who are now creating new technologies that allow us to enjoy life and find fulfillment professionally in ways that we may not have before and to create new career pathways that are not linear, and that also don’t have to be exhaustive and that can continue to open new doors and opportunities and new learnings. So, I’m excited for that. I’m grateful for the opportunities that these women are creating and also our male allies.
Mary: And what it says to me is that we need to support one another in the journey. I think you’re right about pathways and, in my mind, rewriting the narrative. I think you’re still going forward. And in the old hierarchical model, president to vice president is considered going back. But I think that what you just said about opportunities and why we are doing this work and what we hope to achieve and how that changes when you take it into account within the larger framework of what you want to do with your life.
We’ve talked about that type of values-aligned work. Where do you want to have the impact? How do you want to have an impact? And this relates to this other idea of taking these opportunities when they present themselves and maybe making a bolder or riskier move, even though that’s not what you’ve been advised to do.
I love what you said about millennials and Gen Z, because I agree completely. I was going to ask you, how do we get bolder? How do we make those jumps? You said we get inspired by the next generations behind us who are already doing that. If they can do it, we can do it, too, right?
How do you create that environment? I think the big takeaway for me is really back to: How do we incentivize, how do we take advantage of opportunities? How do we rewrite our narratives so that they make sense for us and expand the definition of what a forward trajectory looks like and how do we help others to get bolder?
This is a lightly edited excerpt from the transcript of the episode. Listen to the full episode here.
We are working on season six of “View From Venus,” which will be published this fall. Send us your recommendations for guests you’d like to hear from.